How To Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card 2023 (A Simple Guide)

As a new immigrant to Nova Scotia, one of your first jobs should be to apply for a Nova Scotia health card. This card records your Nova Scotia health number and is proof of your eligibility for free healthcare under Nova Scotia’s Medical Services Insurance plan (known as MSI).

You must provide your health card whenever you want to access healthcare in Nova Scotia. You will also need this when registering with a family doctor.

This post will give you an overview of the Canadian and Nova Scotia healthcare systems and explain how to apply for Nova Scotia health cards in simple terms.

For more information on Canadian health care and other provincial health cards, refer to our article on applying for health cards in Canada.

Canadian Healthcare – An Overview

Canada’s excellent healthcare system provides free primary care to eligible residents. Healthcare is publicly funded and administered at the provincial level. The provincial systems operate similarly, but there is some variation in coverage.

Your provincial plan will also provide basic coverage while travelling within other provinces and territories. However, if you move province permanently, you must re-register for healthcare with your new province.

How To Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card – The Basics

The following sections explain how to apply for a Nova Scotia health card, but some basic facts about the process are summarised below:

Health Plan NameNova Scotia MSI
Cost of ApplicationFree
Ongoing Insurance CostFree
Application MethodsVia Phone Only
In-Person LocationsNone
Wait Period (if moved from outside Canada)None
Wait Period (if moved from within Canada)2-3 months
Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card – The Basic Facts

Who Is Eligible For Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance?

To be eligible for Nova Scotia Medical Service Insurance, you must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen or “Permanent Resident” (Landed Immigrant);
  • a resident who makes their permanent home in Nova Scotia;
  • present in the province 183 days every calendar year

If you stay in Nova Scotia on a work permit of at least 12 months, you will also be eligible. However, note that different rules regarding absences from the province apply.

If you stay in Nova Scotia on a study permit, you may be eligible for coverage, but not until the 2nd year of your stay.

Who Isn’t Eligible For Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance?

If you are a student from another province or territory and plan to return to your home province after your studies, you won’t be eligible for Nova Scotia MSI. However, you will still receive coverage from your home province in Nova Scotia.

What Is The Wait Period for Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance?

If you move to Nova Scotia from overseas, there is no waiting period for coverage, and you should apply for your health cards as soon as possible after you arrive.

Note that there is a wait time for people who move to Nova Scotia from another province. In this situation, your coverage won’t start until the 1st day of the 3rd month following the date you became a resident.

For example, if you become a permanent Nova Scotia resident on July 12th, your coverage will start on October 1st.

You will continue to receive basic coverage from your previous province or territory in the interim period.

What Documentation Will I Need To Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card?

To apply for a Nova Scotia health card, you must prove that you have a right to reside in Canada. Some examples of acceptable documents are given below:

  • Canadian birth certificate
  • Valid Canadian passport (or one that has not been expired for more than five years)
  • Canadian citizenship card or certificate (both sides)
  • NEXUS card
  • Certificate of Indian Status Card
  • Permanent residence certificate
  • Immigration/permit documents

How To Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card

To register for a health card in Nova Scotia, contact the MSI Registration and Inquiry Department at 902-496-7008 or 1-800-563-8880 (toll-free within Canada) to start the application process.

When you call, you will be given details of the documentation you need to provide.

Note that the Department of Health doesn’t provide blank application forms; you must start the application process via phone.

A Young Girl Shares A Joke With Family Doctor After Her Family Apply For Nova Scotia Health Card In Canada
Apply For A Nova Scotia Health Card

What Is Covered By Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance?

Nova Scotia MSI will cover you for medically necessary healthcare services such as:

  • Visits to general practitioners, surgeons and other doctors
  • Hospital services
  • Medically required diagnostic tests such as X-rays
  • Laboratory services (e.g. blood tests)
  • Obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care 
  • Medically necessary dental & optometry services
  • Basic dental treatment for under 14’s & over 64’s
  • Eye Exams for under 10’s & over 64’s (limits apply)
  • Some prescription drugs for those over 64’s

What Isn’t Covered By Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance?

Nova Scotia MSI won’t cover you for the following services:

  • Prescriptions (apart from during a hospital stay)
  • Eye care, unless medically necessary
  • Dental care, unless medically necessary
  • Alternative treatments such as naturopathy
  • Complementary treatments such as physiotherapy and chiropractic services
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Podiatry
  • Hearing aids
  • Ambulance services (except between medical facilities)

Many Nova Scotians have private supplementary insurance for medical services not covered by the provincial plan. Supplementary health overage is often included in employee benefit packages, or you can acquire coverage personally.

How Do I Register With A Family Doctor In Nova Scotia?

Register with Need a Family Practice to find a family doctor. This government service will match you with a doctor in your area accepting new patients. You can either apply online or by calling 811.

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